Conservationist Paul Lister Tells Us About Rewilding Scotland


Conservationist Paul Lister Tells Us About Rewilding Scotland


We are honored to work with environmentally-minded individuals across the globe. The owner of our newest property, Alladale Wilderness Reserve, is no exception.


We catch up with Paul Lister, the man behind one of Scotland’s most unique conservation projects—23,000-acre Alladale Wilderness Reserve. He has big plans to nourish this land into the place the Scottish Highlands once were—a wilderness alive with wolves, and of course the all too cute and seriously endangered Scottish Wildcat. Here are his groundbreaking thoughts for rewilding Alladale, and how you can get involved.   


Q: Conservation plays a big role at Alladale. What inspired you to make the property so environmentally focused?

On my travels I have been fortunate enough to see many conservation and rewilding projects around the world, from Africa and the Americas to Australia and India. It’s the culmination of these trips that eventually brought me to Alladale and the Highlands. The past millennia we have been cutting, felling, and burning our forests in Britain for many different reasons. Just one percent of our original forest remains with what’s left often being described as a “pretty garden” or in the Scottish uplands a “soggy desert.” So rather than continue with a “Victorian” management system, focusing on the diminishing market for hunting, shooting, and fishing, we decided to embark on a rewilding journey which in turn attracts a far larger and growing market focused on nature and wildlife tourism.


"We decided to embark on a rewilding journey which in turn attracts a far larger and growing market focused on nature and wildlife tourism.


Q: Tell us about your passion for wolves and the rewilding movement you're planning for the Highlands.

Britain was once a wild land with wolves, bears, and lynx preying on deer, wild boar, and other critters; with the carnivores gone, sheep and deer took over the landscape and natural regeneration has been severely compromised. The environmental and economic case for wolves has been well documented in Yellowstone over the past 25 years; rather than reintroducing wolves to Scotland, we are proposing a large scale fenced wildlife reserve, much like dozens that exist in South Africa. This will create a huge opportunity for local communities in respect of jobs and businesses but also help the forest regeneration as the wolves will keep deer numbers in check and on the move.


Q: And what about those little wildcats? 


As the UK’s only remaining wild felid, we are part of a group that is working to save the endangered wildcat from extinction. We have numerous enclosures and the idea is to breed cats in captivity that will be used to stock a large scale national breed and release program. In the meantime, Alladale’s guests, in the company of our rangers, love to quietly visit and observe the cats.


"Alladale’s guests, in the company of our rangers, love to quietly visit and observe the cats." 


Q: In addition to rewilding Alladale, can you tell us more about your work with the European Nature Trust and also what you are doing in Transylvania?


The European Nature Trust partners with and supports wildlife and conservation charities in Asturias (Spain), Abruzzo (Italy), and Fararas (Romania), where we have our most significant project. Romania has the largest unfragmented old growth forests in Europe that extend for hundreds of miles and are home to the highest numbers of bears, wolves, and lynx anywhere in Europe. During the post-communism period these forests have become the target of large scale illegal forestry practices resulting in vast clear-cuts! Thanks to the work of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and others, we hope these illicit practices are now slowing down! The Romanian Foundation Conservation Carpathia (FCC) is in the process of establishing a more than 600,000-acre protected area in the heart of the Carpathian mountains between the cities of Sibiu and Brasov, a kind of European Yellowstone!  

Q: What can travelers expect during a typical stay at Alladale?


Apart from taking over one or more of our four lodges, we offer a wide range of retreats from yoga and mindfulness to biking challenges; Bear Grylls Survival Academy and the world famous Wim Hof ice retreats! Guests can also take a variety of walks, mountain bike, fly fish, clay-bird shoot or just relax, read a book, play the piano or partake in a game of snooker or billiards. On inclement weather days guests have the use of our gym and sauna! Our chef prepares ‘honest’ locally sourced seafood and game, and much of the produce is sourced from our own extensive organic garden.

Surprisingly not all of Scotland suffers from high precipitation; Alladale receives around 40 inches of rainfall a year compared to the West Coast which gets more than 120 inches—and last summer we had 3 months of drought conditions! We have a good stock of Wellington and hiking boots to choose from as well as rain jackets, gloves, hats, etc; however we do encourage guests to bring their own outdoor coats as the Highland weather can change very rapidly.



Interested in traveling to Scotland? Get in touch or learn more about Alladale Wilderness Reserve below.


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Paul Lister Interview


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